Adop­tion can have vary­ing ef­fects on chil­dren

The Covington News - - RELIGION -

Ques­tion: Are adopted chil­dren more likely to be re­bel­lious than chil­dren born to bi­o­log­i­cal par­ents? If so, are there any steps I can take to pre­vent or ease the con­flict? My hus­band and I are think­ing about adopt­ing a tod­dler and the ques­tion has me wor­ried.

Dob­son: Ev­ery child is dif­fer­ent and adopted kids are no ex­cep­tion. They come in all sorts of pack­ages.

Some boys and girls who were abused or unloved prior to the adop­tion will re­act to those painful ex­pe­ri­ences in some way ... usu­ally neg­a­tively. Oth­ers, even those who were not mis­treated, will strug­gle with iden­tity prob­lems and won­der why their “real” moth­ers and fa­thers didn’t want them. They may be driven to find their bi­o­log­i­cal par­ents dur­ing or af­ter ado­les­cence to learn more about their her­itage and fam­i­lies of ori­gin.

I must em­pha­size, how­ever, that many adopted kids do not go through any of th­ese per­sonal crises. They take root where they are re­planted and never give a thought to the ques­tions that trou­ble some of their peers. As with so many other be­hav­ioral is­sues, the crit­i­cal fac­tors are the par­tic­u­lar tem­per­a­ment of the child and how he or she is han­dled by the par­ents.

I hope you won’t be re­luc­tant to adopt that child be­cause some spe­cial prob­lems might — but prob­a­bly won’t — de­velop. Ev­ery child has his or her own par­tic­u­lar chal­lenges. Ev­ery child can be dif­fi­cult to raise. Ev­ery child re­quires all the creative en­ergy and tal­ent a par­ent can muster. But ev­ery child is also worth the ef­fort, and there is no higher call­ing than to do that job ex­cel­lently.

Let me add one more thought. I knew a man and wo­man who had waited for years to adopt a baby. When a baby girl was fi­nally made avail­able to them, they were anx­ious to know if she was healthy and of good her­itage. They asked if her bi­o­log­i­cal par­ents had used drugs, how tall they were, whether or not they had at­tended col­lege, etc.

Then, the fa­ther told me later, he re­al­ized what he and his wife were do­ing: They were ap­proach­ing the adop­tion of this baby much like they would have bought a used car. They were kick­ing the tires and test­ing the en­gine. But then they thought, “What in the world are we do­ing? That lit­tle girl is a hu­man be­ing with an eter­nal soul. We have been given the op­por­tu­nity to mold and shape her as a child of God, and here we are de­mand­ing that she be a high qual­ity prod­uct.” They re­pented of their in­ap­pro­pri­ate at­ti­tudes and em­braced that child in love.

Adopted chil­dren, like all chil­dren, are a bless­ing from God, and we are priv­i­leged in­deed to be granted the honor of rais­ing one of his pre­cious kids.

Ques­tion: At what age should dis­ci­pline be­gin?

Dob­son: There should be no phys­i­cal pun­ish­ment for a child younger than 15 to 18 months, re­gard­less of the cir­cum­stances. An in­fant is in­ca­pable of com­pre­hend­ing his or her “of­fense” or as­so­ci­at­ing it with the re­sult­ing con­se­quences.

Some par­ents do not agree and will swat a baby for wig­gling while be­ing di­a­pered or for cry­ing in the mid­night hours. This is a ter­ri­ble mis- take. Other par­ents will shake a child vi­o­lently when they are frus­trated or ir­ri­tated by in­ces­sant cry­ing. Let me warn those moth­ers and fa­thers of the dan­gers of that pun­ish­ing re­sponse: Shak­ing an in­fant can cause se­ri­ous neu­ro­log­i­cal dam­age as the brain is slammed against the skull. Do not risk any kind of in­jury with a baby.

Es­pe­cially dur­ing the first year, a young­ster needs to be held, loved and calmed by a sooth­ing hu­man voice. He should be fed when hun­gry and kept clean and dry and warm. The foun­da­tion for emo­tional and phys­i­cal health is laid dur­ing this six-month pe­riod, which should be char­ac­ter­ized by se­cu­rity, af­fec­tion and warmth.

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